IISc develops mobile infection testing, reporting labs

The premier Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has rolled out four mobile infection testing and reporting labs, developed by its faculty with its incubated start-up ShanMukha Innovations, an official said on Thursday.

Touted to be the country’s first and only bio-safety level 2 plus compliant, the mobile diagnostic lab is approved by the state-run Indian Council he of Medical Reasearch (ICMR) of the Union Health Ministry. “The mobile labs on a fleet of vans enable healthcare workers to collect, process and test samples using RT-PCR onsite and upload results to the ICMR portal,” said a statement here.

“The labs have the capacity to process 6,000-9,000 samples per month, with potential to scale up by adding equipment and personnel,” the official said.

The RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) is considered the gold standard for detecting the novel corona virus. As a laboratory technique, it combines reverse transcription of RNA into DNA.

“The labs allow healthcare workers to collect, process and test samples using RT-PCR onsite and upload results directly to the ICMR portal,” said the official.

“Unlike conventional diagnostic labs taking 2-10 days to for results, the mobile labs give the test report in 4-12 hours, a dramatic reduction in saving time and treating the affected persons,” IISc director Govindan Rangarajan said.

Rangarajan handed over keys of 4 mobile labs on mini vans at the institute’s sprawling campus in the city’s northwest suburb to state-run Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) Vice-Chancellor S. Sacchidanand and Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) Director C.R. Jayanthi in the presence of Karnataka Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar on the occasion.

The central government’s Principal Scientific Advisor K. Vijay Raghavan was instrumental in securing financial and logistics support from SBI Foundation of the State Bank of India (SBI) and vans from Tata Motors.

The institute received additional funding from Collins Aerospace through United Way (Bengaluru) and Borqs software solutions.

“As the Covid pandemic has spawned many problems, promoting innovation through research and development (R&D) for solutions to the deadly virus is imperative,” said SBI Foundation managing director M. Kalyanasundaram.

The labs adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and ICMR guidelines for sample handling and provide safety for technicians.

Rapid deployment of the mobile labs to emerging hotspots and containment zones will also help identify and control the spread of infection.

Being a functional molecular diagnostics unit, the labs can also be used to test other viral and bacterial infections like H1N1, HCV, HBC, and TB.

The BMCRI will operate the mobile labs with support of RGUHS.